Advance Review: Devouring A Visual Smorgasbord In `Shaolin Cowboy: Cruel To Be Kin’ #5

by Tom Smithyman


You could literally spend hours looking at the incredible detail that creator Geof Darrow has put into this issue. And you probably should. It’s an embarrassment of riches for the eyes and likely several other senses as well.


Everything you need to understand Geof Darrow’s work can be found on the first panel of the first page of Shaolin Cowboy #5.

In it, a middle-aged man is walking down a disgusting city street, packed with dogs, cats, and lizards urinating and humping each other; a MAGA-clad man throwing a beer bottle onto the sidewalk, a box full of free guns; and various billboards for such establishments as Bar Nun, Chix’n Food and Whore 2 Culture. Readers could easily spend as much time on this single page as they would a typical comic. (And when they do, they will find Godzilla lurking in the background.)

Incredibly though, that single page – the first half-page really – just sets up even more examples of the visual smorgasbord that Darrow has been delivering for decades.

The cowboy is seeking revenge – as an enlightened one, he would no doubt call it justice – after the killing of his adopted family of Komodo dragons. He quickly learns those responsible for the killing but must fight his way through a phalanx of dim MAGA Nazis first. That provides even more Darrow-esque visual eye candy.

First, there’s the baddie’s hangout. Adoring pictures of Donald Trump are plastered up next to images of Adolf Hitler. Posters of Jesus hang above nude pinups of women. With those visuals, Darrow is commenting on society more effectively than with pages of text. (In the letters column at the back of the issue, he calls his work “almost documentarian in their depiction of the world.”)

Then he moves to one of the most innovative decapitation scenes ever. The details would spoil the fun, but know that he tops it in the next panel when the cowboy uses the detached head as a projectile.

The core of the issue is a nine-page battle scene between the cowboy and the hicks that would challenge even the great Jackie Chan. It’s page after wordless page of action, gore and excitement – as well as even more of Darrow’s trademark jabs at society. If there’s a criticism of the montage, it that here’s too much there to take in at one time. It begs for repeated readings to find more hidden gems.

Darrow’s work clearly isn’t for everyone. But for anyone looking for kinetic energy on a page, with some savvy political commentary thrown in for good measure, should run to this series.

Shaolin Cowboy: Cruel to be Kin #5 will be available for purchase on Wednesday.

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